Q & A With Someone Who Was Awarded Benefits

Submitted by Deanna on

One of the most common questions we receive is “How do I actually get approved for benefits?” The fact of the matter is that there’s no sure-fire way to get approved, and less than 50% of applicants receive benefits even after they have an ALJ hearing. So we decided to speak with a woman who WAS successful with her claim to see what she did to win her benefits.

Q: How long did it take for you to be approved?

A: I just got approved in just a little over 4 months and on my own. I know that is rare for SSDI to go that short of a time after applying. In fact even before getting either letter in the mail, the back pay for 13 months was deposited. Very surprising and welcome!!

Q: That’s fantastic news! How did you start your claim?

A: I perused a few sites on what ss looks for in approvals. It seemed to emphasize that you need to show how your multiple diagnoses impair your daily functional capacity. Since my doctor is the one who suggested I apply I emphasized that her documentation show how I am limited in my daily function.

Q: That’s definitely true. You really should have a wealth of medical evidence available before applying. Did you just submit your claim and wait to be approved?

A: No, I also communicated with the adjudicator weekly. I found out who he was after he mailed me 2 more applications to fill out. Had I not been in contact with him my process would have been very long because on one of the phone calls he told me I hadn't been honest. When I inquired it turned out he scanned the doctor's paperwork and saw "mentally healthy" to mean mentally unhealthy. Good thing my physician sent me a copy of what she filled out. Once I pointed that out to him he apologized and things continued to go smoothly. If I hadn't been in contact with him he would have been looking for records that didn't exist.

Q: What a good catch. It seems like silly paperwork seems to get a lot of people disqualified. In fact, I once read that up to 30% of applicants who were denied were only denied due to a technicality on their application! Were proceedings smooth after you kept in communication with your local SSA office?

A: Almost! They did send me to the exam with their doctor as well as to two pulmonary functionary tests. Once all that was completed, I was approved within 2 weeks. My case also went not only to medical review but to the chief medical reviewer as well. I was told that not many cases get to go there. Both of them made recommendations and the tests were ordered because I did not have any recent studies.

Q: I’ve heard that a lot of people have difficulty with the SSA’s medical reviewers or Disability Determination Services (DDS). It’s nice to hear one case go so smoothly. Do you have any other recommendations for anyone applying for benefits?

A: Be honest and truthful but tell them how you are limited in your functional capacity. Especially with your medical diagnosis.

So there you have it! If you’re applying for benefits, here are some key takeaways from a woman who had success with her claim:

  • Gather as much medical evidence as possible from your doctor
  • Keep in communication with the SSA
  • Take all the exams the SSA recommends
  • Be completely honest when filling out the application.

If you were still denied benefits, or if you’re nervous about the application process, we can help. Consider speaking with a Social Security disability advocate or attorney about your claim today. 

Additional Resources 

Blog comments

Becki (not verified)

Do you recall how many days

Do you recall how many days from approval to get back pay? Was it by paper check or direct deposit?

Wed, 12/16/2015 - 01:13 Permalink
Alex (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

As expected my orthopedic

As expected my orthopedic claim was denied.
The orthopedist who did my surgery did not mention the service connection and the two other orthopedists that I saw simply copied his report.
When I tried to explain the service connection to the VA C & P orthopedist he cut me off and refused to listen.
On the other hand, my PTSD claim was rated at 50%.
Several other claims were denied, including the one for unemployability, which was denied because I am not at a 60% threshold.
So should I try to get the PTSD claim rerated at 60%, or have the orthopedic or other claims reconsidered?
Also, should I ask for reconsideration, file an appeal, file a new claim, or are there other options for obtaining the 60% rating needed to reconsider the claim for unemployability?
Thank You in advance ~

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 16:22 Permalink
Loretta pope (not verified)

In reply to by Becki (not verified)

how long do it take to Social

how long do it take to Social Security office to review your paperwork is been 18 months waiting to hear back from Social Security

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:59 Permalink

In reply to by Loretta pope (not verified)

Hi Loretta,

Hi Loretta,

Every case is different, so I really can't say for sure. You may want to contact a SSA representative to see if they can provide more information on your situation.

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 16:49 Permalink
Ruth (not verified)

What websites did you use to

What websites did you use to apply? I need to start my mom's but I don't where and how to start.

Mon, 12/28/2015 - 18:57 Permalink
Patty Finnegan (not verified)

How do we transfer benefits

How do we transfer benefits from CA to CT?

Mon, 01/04/2016 - 16:07 Permalink

In reply to by Patty Finnegan (not verified)

Hi Patty,

Hi Patty,
If you are on SSDI benefits, this will not be a problem. If you are on SSI benefits, you will need to call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to discuss your options and make sure you'll still remain eligible for benefits.

Mon, 01/04/2016 - 16:10 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

It is better for me to obtain

It is better for me to obtain medical records or for social security to do it? My dtr has bipolar manic depression and anxiety. .can't hold job suicidal been in mental institutions. Applied for disability 2 years ago..denied. Now trying again

Tue, 01/05/2016 - 04:44 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
If you have your own medical records, you can not only ensure that the SSA sees all of your records, but I've also heard that sending them in speeds up the claims process.

Tue, 01/05/2016 - 16:58 Permalink
Luz Milagros Ramirez (not verified)

I was awarde full benefits on

I was awarde full benefits on 2-2-16 I have no income for 13 moths you think it how long more I have to wait am going crazy w.deth

Sat, 04/02/2016 - 16:14 Permalink

In reply to by Luz Milagros Ramirez (not verified)

Hi Luz,

Hi Luz,
I would expect your benefits to start very soon, most likely in the middle of this month or in May.

Mon, 04/04/2016 - 16:40 Permalink
cory mckenzir (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

my girlfriend has been

my girlfriend has been waiting for about the same time. local office said its held up in payment center. not knowing what to do

Mon, 04/04/2016 - 21:45 Permalink
Veronica D.Brown (not verified)

In reply to by Luz Milagros Ramirez (not verified)

I had an interview appt. On

I had an interview appt. On June 27, 2017. At the Social security office to review my information with Ms.Greer who did my intake application for my claim that was approved, I return the information that was required of me to the best of my ability. My question is how long does it take to receive my award letter in the mail to receive my benefits and back payment

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 13:44 Permalink

In reply to by Veronica D.Brown (not verified)

Hi Veronica,

Hi Veronica,

It's tough to say though because every case varies so there isn't a definitive answer, however those who are denied benefits generally receive their letter in the mail sooner because they only have a certain amount of days to appeal.


Wed, 07/05/2017 - 09:05 Permalink
Jody (not verified)

Your lucky I'm in

Your lucky I'm in waiting on my hearing and did hire a lawyer, would call SSi and they never called me back. Sent me to there doc and I brought someone with me, appt took 5 min they denied me on his statement

Sun, 05/01/2016 - 16:16 Permalink

In reply to by Jody (not verified)

Hi Jody,

Hi Jody,
I am sorry to hear that! Fortunately most claims are approved at an ALJ hearing, so hopefully you will have more luck there.

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 12:40 Permalink
Ricky F (not verified)

I went to my hearing and

I went to my hearing and there was no volcational expert is that good or bad

Sun, 05/15/2016 - 11:20 Permalink

In reply to by Ricky F (not verified)

Hi Ricky,

Hi Ricky,
I may take this as a good sign, as you do not have anyone who was trying to determine whether or not there was work you could preform.

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 15:32 Permalink
Tammy (not verified)

I have a question regarding

I have a question regarding ss benefits. My EX husband was awarded ssd the exact month we were divorced, he never mentioned he was awarded disability. I was awarded sole custody and he was to pay child support, but found out 2 years later he had been receiving the disability payments for the kids, which was a lot more than the awarded child support he had to pay me. He lied to social security and stated he had custody. Am I entitled to that back money that he received fraudulently?

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 11:06 Permalink

In reply to by Tammy (not verified)

Hi Tammy,

Hi Tammy,
You may be able to recover the money from your ex if he had saved it, but I am unsure as to if the SSA would pay you that money due to his fraud. I would contact the SSA with this information so that they can change your children's representative payee to someone who would use the money for the children's care and maintenance in the future.

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 11:29 Permalink
Tammy (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Thank you Brian for your

Thank you Brian for your suggestion; however, I did contact ss when I realized he was receiving the benefits and they immediately changed it but all that money he collected fraudulently that should of gone to me for the children, they are apparently letting him keep for whatever reason.

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 14:24 Permalink

In reply to by Tammy (not verified)

Hi Tammy,

Hi Tammy,
You may also want to contact the SSA with the all the information about him keeping those auxiliary benefits, if you call their fraud hotline:
(800) 269-0271
They can collect the evidence and investigate it, as this may be fraud.

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 15:35 Permalink
James Mangum (not verified)

I'm really struggling

I'm really struggling with with my limitations and admitting to myself that my health has gotten worse, and will continue getting worse. Besides the COPD I'm dealing with, my heart seams to be beating out of my chest when I take the medication my doctor had me taking. I had to stop taking it due to fear. It all seems so confusing on how the process works. I know people who have lost their eyesight in one eye and were approved. Others with conditions like me with many health issues were denied. In my case, I was in a horrible auto accident in 1984 in which I broke almost every bone in my body including my face. My nose was cut off and reattached, but I still ended up hemorrhaging from an artery behind my nose and made about a dozen week long stays in the hospital trying to get it to heal and many blood transfusions. After about 18 to 24 months I learned to walk again, and worked my butt off to get my strength back. I'm now 63 years old and I have arthritis from head to toe. My pelvis, neck, back, my knee is completely gone. I can't stand very long, can't sit very long, just everything is painfull and an effort. My point is, I've heard that people with some of my many old traumas were denied. It scares me to think that I may lose everything after paying into the security of my future for over 48 years and denied access to benefits that I had thought would be there for me. I'm sorry for getting carried away with my thoughts, but I'm sure others are keeping their fear bottled up as well.

Thu, 06/16/2016 - 10:20 Permalink

In reply to by James Mangum (not verified)

Hi James,

Hi James,
I am very sorry to hear that, and a lot of people share the same fears as you. Fortunately, there could be help available. For one thing, COPD is listed in the Blue Book, which is very helpful when applying. You are also 63 years old, which means you will have a much higher chance of qualifying than someone who is younger and may be able to be retrained for another job. If you'd like to discuss your claim with an expert, I would recommend speaking with a Social Security disability attorney. He or she can look over your claim and determine whether or not it would be worthwhile to apply.

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 15:11 Permalink
Brianya (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

Hi I would like to say I HAVE

Hi I would like to say I HAVE COPD And it isn't listed it states respiratory disease section 3.0 I believe, it can however be considered a equal allowance if you do not "EXACTLY" match the criteria listed in the blue book. I have decompensated severely WITH COPD and bipolar I, and PRSD,MDD I HAVE BEEN RECIEVING CONSISTENT THERAPY FOR 4 YEARS I JUST RECENTLY HAD MY NEW PSYCHIATRIC EVALUATION. I AM at a appeal ALJ HEARING LEVEL. I CALLED them (5 times already) and I was told that my Pulmonologiat/physiatrist does not need to fill out a "RFC" just have limitations documented. Does anyone know anything about this. I am so stressed out, would appreciate any knowledgeable feedback. Thank you

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 02:19 Permalink
gary (not verified)

pulmonary function tests are

pulmonary function tests are a very big deal in filing for disability. When I had my hearing {I was 55 at the time he didn't nessasarly agree with my doctor but he had to honor the pulmonary function test and that's the main reason I got on disability. One thing I was on state insurance at the time and they wouldn't cover it the price with insurance was 2500 dollars but if you didn't have insurance you could get it done for 700 dollars at the time of service so don't be afraid of bargaining for this service note if it shows that you still can work it could hurt you also

Sat, 07/09/2016 - 10:45 Permalink

In reply to by gary (not verified)

Hi Gary,

Hi Gary,
That's true! Many doctor's offices will work with you as far as payment for tests and visits goes.

Mon, 07/11/2016 - 10:37 Permalink
Connie (not verified)

I've been fighting for 6

I've been fighting for 6 years on behalf of my son, who has a seizure disorder, Bi-polar, schizo-affective disorder, hallucinations and scoliosis. We have an attorney, and they had my son in front of a judge who denied the claim again (3rd denial, now). He has seizures daily, has to use a walker, is 28 years old and there isn't a whole lot he's capable of doing, due to his mental incapacitaties. I recently videotaped his seizures, and we ended up in the ER. I went to the Attorneys Office and was told, well, it was denied by the judge, so it's a standard 2 year wait. OMG...are you kidding me??? What about the video evidence? I was told, again, it's a standard 2 year wait once the judge denies it, but I would hold onto the video for after the 2 year wait. I'm so frustrated for my son!!! My son and I have NO family here in California and want to move back to Georgia, hence...I do not have the funds to just pick up and move, and this would allow us to do so. The attorneys office told me to just move and they'd have no problem transferring the case...again...We don't have the money to move. When I left the Navy and went through the VA, I thought that was tough....they were a piece of cake compared to Social Security.

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 13:46 Permalink
Nicole (not verified)

This is my second start over.

This is my second start over. I went all the way to the judge and was denied. So I have started all over again me on in my first appeal. I am going to a mental exam later this month. If I finally get approved, could I get back pay from my first original application in April 2014? Or when I had to start over a few mo the ago?

Sat, 09/02/2017 - 15:12 Permalink

In reply to by Nicole (not verified)

Hi Nicole,

Hi Nicole,
You may be eligible for back pay from the time of your established onset date (EOD). This would change for each application.

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 17:05 Permalink
Dan (not verified)

Hello um I wanted to ask a

Hello um I wanted to ask a question how would I know if my ssi benefits have already been issued to me? I've had issues whitt my identity before taken me long long time to get that back... And recently I was cut off g.r. completely no stamps even? Any ideas please help. Thanks

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 00:46 Permalink

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

Hi Dan,

Hi Dan,
If you had been awarded benefits, you may have received a letter from the SSA detailing what benefits you would receive and the amount.

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 09:55 Permalink
Steve Fleischman (not verified)

I have about 3 months till I

I have about 3 months till I receive information on my disability hearing in moreano valley california been waiting since Jan of 2016 I had my colon removed the surgery was done in 1992 I was 32 now am 57 having problems with restroom visits was self employed have a lot of medical information I do have a lawyer had been working in our family restaurant stopped working in Nov of 2015 was wondering what are my chances of winning disability hearing my lawyer said this was a strong case

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 03:18 Permalink

In reply to by Steve Fleischman (not verified)

Hi Steve,

Hi Steve,
It may be a strong case, the SSA is more likely to approve benefits for those over the age of 50.

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 09:26 Permalink
steve fleischman (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Thank you for reading my post

Thank you for reading my post I just had a couple more questions not sure but if medical information is very strong and issues about colon issue as I stated in above if there are other conditions along with colon removal now 57 years old would that make it easier to get disability and one more question what if the hearing disability judge has a high denial rate what will the out come be at the hearing still strong medical information thanks again look forward to reading your post take care steve

Sat, 09/23/2017 - 00:11 Permalink

In reply to by steve fleischman (not verified)

Hi Steve,

Hi Steve,
If you have a strong case, the judge's denial rate may not be an issue.

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 12:48 Permalink

In reply to by Steve Fleischman (not verified)

Hi Steve,

Hi Steve,
It may be a strong case, the SSA is more likely to approve benefits for those over the age of 50.

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 09:26 Permalink
stacie (not verified)

hi i have 2 cases going......

hi i have 2 cases going........one has been appealed to federal court and my lawyer also wanted me to file a new claim which i have done and now ssi is sending me for another mental exam.so my question is........is it good if i also take in all my ce evaluations into the exam as well as all medications i am on

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 23:27 Permalink

In reply to by stacie (not verified)

Hi Stacie,

Hi Stacie,
It may be a good idea to include any medical records that help establish your condition and how it affects you.

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 09:33 Permalink
JoycesVoice (not verified)

Hi. Congratulations on your

Hi. Congratulations on your great work! I've done everything you have...right down to their Dr. appts. for two pulmonary functionary tests. (I read up on it before hand, as you did.) I just completed my 2nd one yesterday. I had one mental exam at first; 3 visits in total. It has now been 6 months and one week since my initial application. Now, I'm wondering (1)..if you still had to attend a hearing? And (2)...what should I do next? Thank you in advance.

Sun, 01/28/2018 - 13:56 Permalink
Lia (not verified)

Hi, I'm not sure these

Hi, I'm not sure these comments are still be responded to but I had a question. My sister applied for SSI in person and they sent her application in, and about a week or two later received a letter in the mail with more forms to fill out asking more specific details about her health. Is this a good sign? I hear many people get automatically denied their first application, so I'm curious if everyone gets asked for more information or if it is a good or bad thing that they've sent her more paperwork

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 22:07 Permalink
Renee (not verified)

Hello I have applied for SSI

Hello I have applied for SSI I'm on the initial application I talked to my examiner and he said I do not need to go to a CE. Just wondering if that's a good sign for approval.

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 02:48 Permalink

Add new comment

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!